was filed in the case of Dugas v. Robbins, Case No. BACV2008-491, pending
in Massachusetts Superior Court in Barnstable.The case concerns allegations of defamation
against a blogger on Cape Cod. The Court
is considering the defendant's motion to dismiss the lawsuit under the
Commonwealth's anti-SLAPP law, M.G.L. c. 231, § 59H.
The coalition of amici, led by
the CMLP, argue that the defendant should be able to take advantage of the
anti-SLAPP law even if he is deemed to be a member of the news media or if he
receives compensation for his blog posts.
Anti-SLAPP laws protect citizens engaged in "petitioning" activities
by prohibiting "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public
Participation." As the amici
note in their brief, "[t]he point of a SLAPP is to intimidate and silence
the target through the threat of an expensive lawsuit." A party
faced with a SLAPP suit in Massachusetts
may file a motion to dismiss under Section 59H and, if successful, recover
attorneys' fees associated with making the motion.
Amici explain in their brief that a decision to deny the anti-SLAPP
law's protections to members of the news media or bloggers would chill their
important efforts to inform citizens about issues before the government.
The brief, which does not take a position on the ultimate merits of plaintiffs'
claims or defendant's motion, notes the various ways in which both the news
media and bloggers can have the kinds of interests that are meant to be
protected by the anti-SLAPP law.A
hearing in the case is scheduled to take place in Barnstable, MA
on Thursday, November 13, 2008.
CMLP and its fellow amici were represented on the brief by HarvardLawSchool's Cyberlaw Clinic, a
for-credit clinical legal education program affiliated with the BerkmanCenter. The brief 's primary
author was Tom Sullivan, a third-year Harvard Law and Clinic student, who
worked in close collaboration with CMLP Director David Ardia and Clinic
staff. This cooperative effort between the CMLP and the Clinic
highlights two of the BerkmanCenter's core missions – advocacy
and education in the online world.